When you’re preparing for baby’s arrival, it’s common to think about the nursery and the basic essentials you’re going to need. However, what many parents-to-be tend to forget about is car seat safety.
You’ll more than likely be transporting baby home from the hospital in your new car seat. What you may not know however, is that the hospital won’t typically let you take baby home unless you have a car seat that’s properly installed. Therefore, it’s crucial you understand the basic baby car seat safety guidelines.
To help, here you’ll discover the ultimate baby car seat safety tips you’ll absolutely want to follow.
Table of Contents
Make Sure You’re Using An Age Appropriate Car Seat
The very first thing you need to do is ensure the car seat you’re buying is age appropriate. It can be really confusing choosing the right car seat due to the sheer number of options available. However, if you’re buying the seat for a newborn, you have three main options. These include:
- Rear facing convertible seat
- Rear facing only seat
- 3-in-1 rear facing seat
As you can see, the key is to choose a rear facing seat for young babies. You’ll want to use this type of seat until your child is two years old, or until they meet the manufacturer’s recommended height and weight restrictions. The seat should also be placed in the back seat.
It’s really important not to move your child into a forward-facing seat before you need to. Just because your child appears to be big enough to switch to a forward-facing seat, it doesn’t mean it’s safer. So, instead you should follow the height and weight restrictions as a guideline.
Ensuring The Seat Is Correctly Installed
Once you know you’ve got the right car seat, it’s time to install it. Frustratingly, this isn’t always as easy as it should be! According to a study published within the Journal of Pediatrics, almost 95% of parents make a mistake when installing their child’s car seat. So, how should the seat be installed?
First, you’ll need to ensure the seat is as snug as possible when it’s installed. You can do this by pressing the car seat down while pulling the seat belt as tight as you can. You shouldn’t be able to move the seat once it’s installed. So, if it wobbles or you can move it over an inch to either side, it’s not installed correctly.
Ideally, the seat should also be installed in the middle of the backseat. However, this isn’t always possible due to a lack of a lower anchor to attach the seat onto. If you can’t install it in the middle, just make sure it’s installed snugly at either side of the back seat.
Equally important is the angle the car seat is installed in. Did you know car seats are designed to recline a little to protect baby’s head from falling forwards? Ideally, you’ll want to install it at a 30 to 45-degree angle. Any more than that and your little one won’t be protected in case of an accident.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that if your car’s seat belts don’t automatically lock, you may want to buy locking clips. This will ensure the seat is well-secured. You can also have the car seat inspected at a NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Station. These stations are available in each state and they provide free inspections to all parents.
You’ll want to make sure you’re following the instructions provided with the car seat too. These will give you the best advice for installation, ensuring the seat is fully safe.
Preventing Harness Escapes
As your baby grows, they’re going to start to figure out how to escape the harness. Once they learn how to get their arms out, it suddenly becomes very dangerous. However, there are things you can do to prevent them from escaping.
Making sure the harness is at the right height and it’s pulled tight and snug against your child’s body is the first step to take. You’ll also want to ensure they’re dressed appropriately (more about this will be revealed below).
It can help to make up a fun song about buckling up. This will ingrain it into your child that they need to keep buckled up, just make sure you lead by example and buckle your own seatbelt every time you get into the car.
If none of these tips work, there are products you can buy especially for little escape artists which will keep the harness tight and secure.
Be Sure The Harness Tension Is Correct
There’s a couple of things you need to get right with the harness. The first is its height. If you’re using a rear facing car seat, the harness should be just below, or level with, your little one’s shoulders. If it’s a forward-facing seat on the other hand, the harness should actually be above your child’s shoulders.
The next thing you need to pay attention to is the tension of the harness. It’s common for parents to have it too loose due to how difficult it can be to actually do it right. The harness should be tight enough so that no more than two fingers can get between it and the child. A good tip is to loosen the harness a little before undoing the buckle when you’re taking baby out of the car seat. Then, when you’re ready to put baby back in, all you’ll need to do is pull the tensioner of the harness to ensure a perfect, snug fit.
Dress Them Appropriately
It’s common to think that in order to ensure baby is fitted snugly into their car seat, they should be dressed in thick, padded clothing. However, it’s actually important to remove thick, puffy clothing before securing them into the seat. This is because, if an accident does occur, the padded clothing will flatten, leaving space underneath the harness which baby could easily fall out of.
So, you’ll want to focus on dressing baby in thin layers. If you need to keep them a little warmer in colder weather, you can also place their coat on backwards after they’ve been buckled in, making sure it’s over the straps.
These are the basic baby car seat safety guidelines you should follow. Ideally, you’ll want to leave yourself a few weeks before baby is born to get accustomed to fitting and securing the seat. It’s also important to note that car seats don’t necessarily fit all makes and models. So, you’ll also need to make sure you’re buying the right car seat for your car.